Open Access Research article

Neighborhood conditions, diabetes, and risk of lower-body functional limitations among middle-aged African Americans: A cohort study

Mario Schootman1*, Elena M Andresen2, Fredric D Wolinsky3, J Philip Miller4, Yan Yan5 and Douglas K Miller6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine and Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

3 Department of Health Management and Policy, College of Public Health, the University of Iowa, IA, USA

4 Division of Biostatistics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA

5 Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA

6 Indiana University Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute, Inc., Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, USA

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:283  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-283

Published: 27 May 2010



The relationship between presence of diabetes and adverse neighborhood and housing conditions and their effect on functional decline is unclear. We examined the association of adverse neighborhood (block face) and housing conditions with incidence of lower-body functional limitations among persons with and those without diabetes using a prospective population-based cohort study of 563 African Americans 49-65 years of age at their 2000-2001 baseline interviews.


Participants were randomly sampled African Americans living in the St. Louis area (response rate: 76%). Physician-diagnosed diabetes was self reported at baseline interview. Lower-body functional limitations were self reported based on the Nagi physical performance scale at baseline and the three-year follow-up interviews. The external appearance of the block the respondent lived on and five housing conditions were rated by study interviewers. All analyses were done using propensity score methods to control for confounders.


109 (19.4%) of subjects experienced incident lower-body functional limitations at three-year follow-up. In adjusted analysis, persons with diabetes who lived on block faces rated as fair-poor on each of the five conditions had higher odds (7.79 [95% confidence interval: 1.36-37.55] to 144.6 [95% confidence interval: 4.45-775.53]) of developing lower-body functional limitations than the referent group of persons without diabetes who lived on block faces rated as good-excellent. At least 80 percent of incident lower-body functional limitations was attributable to the interaction between block face conditions and diabetes status.


Adverse neighborhood conditions appear to exacerbate the detrimental effects on lower-body functioning associated with diabetes.